Izaak walton Inn
CROSS COUNTRY SKIING AND SNOWSHOEING
290 Izaak Walton Road, MT 59916
The Izaak Walton Inn (406-888-5700, www.izaakwaltoninn.com) is on the historic register of inns and is a rail fan's haven. It is 62 miles east of Kalispell and Whitefish, Montana on Highway 2 (also an Amtrak flag stop on the Empire Builder line) in Essex, MT - right on the original Great Northern Railroad line and serviced by Amtrak twice per day. The inn has 33 km of groomed trails for classic and skate skiing and is nestled between Glacier National Park and Great Bear Wilderness.
Gentle rolling terrain down to the Middle Fork of the Flathead River, the Izaak Walton Inn trails include 30 percent beginner, 50 percent intermediate and 20 percent advanced trail difficulties. Elevations range from 3,800-4,800 feet. Climb up next to an ice encrusted creek to views of alpine bowls and spires amidst pristine sub-Arctic environments. Powder hounds will revel in the Dickey Bowl, which is just beyond the inn's trail system.
Lessons and rental equipment for xc skiing and snowshoeing are available. The rental equipment includes heavier backcountry boot/binding systems and there is also skating equipment available.
The inn's history is linked to the construction of the continental railroad system. There are 33 rooms (including family rooms) in the lodge itself. Other accommodations at the inn include turn-of-the-century caboose cottages and family cabins for ski-in, ski-out access to the trail system. The newest addition is the GN 441 Luxury Locomotive, a retired engine renovated and beautifully appointed for guest stays. Don't miss the Finnish sauna.
Enjoy scenic dining where chefs use local ingredients in the Dining Car Restaurant. There are buffalo meats, elk, trout, and vegetarian dishes. How about huckleberry pancakes for breakfast, grilled turkey with roasted red pepper, sauteed mushrooms, and gouda cheese for lunch? And for dinner try the spicy elk sausage appetizer and Ruby Rainbow Trout with lemon pepper pesto and baby red potatoes with huckleberry cobbler for dessert. The Flagstop Bar is open 5 PM till midnight and it has Montana microbrews, high speed Internet aceess, and an old fashioned juke box. The recreation room has a pool table and ping pong.
Glacier National Park provides a natural paradise for xc skiers and snowshoers. Here the unplowed park roads and trails provide kilometer after kilometer of ungroomed passages. Check with the communications center (406-888-5441, www.nps.gov/glac) or the park rangers for weather and snow conditions.
The Izaak Walton Inn has an experienced guide on staff, who provides lessons of all types and levels and guided tours into Glacier National Park. The guide is versed in backcountry equipment and travel and natural history. Different levels of tours are available that offer spectacular views, inspirational destinations, and/or challenging climbs. Bag lunch and transportation are provided to and from the trailhead. Guides for groups of two to four or more cost $115 per person. Private tours are $200.
The inn hosts the SkiFest weekend in January with free demo equipment, free introductory lessons, horse-drawn sleigh rides, bonfire, and live music. In March, the SNOW RODEO is a great family event that offers rodeo-style events with participants using skis and snowshoes - rope a wooden goat, ride an inner tube bronc and mush a chuck wagon team to earn points for best time or style. Prizes are awarded at the bonfire for Top Cowboy and Top Cowgirl. CCSAA member